An Ode to Cranky & Cantankerous

by Carol Hess on February 4, 2013

Cranky.  Cantankerous.  Don’t you just love those words?  I like the sound of crotchety too.

I come from a long line of women who tend to get cranky and cantankerous as they age.  I’m delighted to announce I’m there.  Just call me Crankypants Carol.  (Thank you, Sandi Amorim for crankypants.)

Actually, I suspect my female relatives and I have always been a bit cranky and cantankerous by nature.  When we amass a sufficient number of years on the planet, we simply give ourselves permission to let that nature fully emerge.  I suppose we decide the truth is easier to maintain than the façade.

My Cranky Truth

So here’s my truth in all its cranky glory.

I’m tired of all this affirmation pushing, positive thinking proselytizing, Law of Attraction oversimplifying that’s being pushed down our collective throats.  It has turned us into a bunch of self-righteous, self-conscious, sweetness-and-light spouting, butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-our-mouths posturing good little girls.

Good grief!  I’ve spent my whole life trying to recover from the Good Little Girl Syndrome!  Now, just as I have one foot pulled out of that authenticity-sucking, identity-sapping quicksand, I’m being pushed into the mud of political and spiritual correctness so that I can be fashioned into Smile Sweetly for the Spiritual Camera Carol.

No, thank you.  I’d rather be Stick Out Her Tongue at the Camera Crankypants Carol.  It comes much more naturally.


As for affirmations, I’m not a fan of them.  Never have been.  They push back against, resist the negative beliefs I hold — supposedly so I will start embracing the positive and rejecting the negative.  But what I resist persists.  In fact, the more I resist something, the stronger it becomes.  (Have you ever tried to resist scratching an itch?)  So I’m damned if I’m going to run around uttering affirmations that make my negative beliefs that much more persistent and powerful.  That makes no sense to me.

Instead, I’m going to examine those negative beliefs.  I’m going to follow their winding, curving, snaking, sneaky, detouring, duplicitous, doubling back tracks until I can trace those beliefs right back to their source.  Then I’m going to shine the light of truth on them and pull those suckers out, roots and all.

Let’s face it.  Planting a bunch of sweet-smelling daisy affirmations in among the rank-smelling negative dandelions of my mental garden isn’t going to make the dandelions go away.  They’re just going to keep coming up over and over until I dig them up and expose them to the air of awareness.  Then the healing can begin.  I can’t heal what I don’t acknowledge.

Positive Thinking

The same goes for trying to drown out my stinking thinking by screaming my positive thoughts louder and more often.  I find it far more effective to voice my negative thoughts and fears and worries – to talk them out and scribble them down.  Instead of pushing them aside or drumming them out, I bring them center stage.  And then I go to work on them.  I uncover them, uncloak them, entertain them, examine them, dismantle them, demystify them.  By the time I’ve done all that, they have lost their emotional charge and therefore their power.

The current proselytizing about the wonders of positive thinking can be downright unhealthy.  Several years ago, I was at home, recovering from major surgery.  As I stood in the kitchen talking to my young neighbor who had come over to take out my trash for me, I felt something warm and wet running down my leg.  I looked down and saw pools of dark red blood splashing onto the white kitchen floor.  The blood was gushing from the end of the long surgical incision at my hip.

As I grabbed towel after kitchen towel to try to stop the blood from pouring out of me, I was sure I was about to die.  I didn’t know that I was losing old blood that had collected at the site of the operation and not new blood I needed to live.  However, that quickly became apparent when I didn’t lose consciousness or even feel light-headed from losing all that blood.

For the next couple of weeks, the scene of my red blood pooling on the white kitchen floor played over and over in my mind.  When I mentioned it to the visiting nurse, she responded, “Carol, stop thinking about it.  You’re slowing down your healing.  Think only positive thoughts.”

I tried.  I really did.  Trust me.  I really didn’t want to keep reliving a time when I thought I was about to die.  But there seemed to be nothing I could do about it.  The scene kept flashing up on the screen of my mind over and over and over, like some crazy movie reel on an endless loop.

So I told my former therapist about it.  And she told me not to listen to the visiting nurse, that the psyche heals itself from trauma by replaying the traumatic incident over and over until it loses its emotional charge.  The real harm comes when we try to suppress the replaying and therefore suppress the natural process the psyche uses to heal itself.  Lori went on to say I would feel less and less distress each time I relived the trauma, and eventually my bloody kitchen floor movie would stop.  She was exactly right.

Then there came a time when I deliberately ran my movie one more time.  A nurse was trying to draw blood from me with little success.  So I visualized the kitchen floor scene and, sure enough, my blood began to flow.  When all the tubes were nicely filled, I turned the movie off, and my blood stopped flowing.  Now that’s the power of negative thinking!

Law of Attraction

As for the ever popular Law of Attraction, I don’t begin to understand its complex nature and the ramifications for those of us living under it.  But I do take exception to those who have oversimplified it and diminished it by turning it into some kind of spiritual wishing well.  If it’s really that simple, then why aren’t we all happy as clams and leading perfect lives?

Trust me, we aren’t – no matter how much we may think it, say it, write it, affirm it . . . . . or pretend it.  And that’s okay.  We’re not supposed to be happy as clams all the time.  Our goal on this planet isn’t to live perfect lives.  It’s to learn.  We’re all here to learn, and none of us has mastered all the lessons.  We all struggle from time to time.  And guess what?  That means that we all get crotchety from time to time.

So why don’t we just tell that truth to ourselves and each other?  Why don’t we just give ourselves and each other permission to be cranky, cantankerous, and real?

I’ll go first.  Hi, my name is Carol, and I’m having a crankypants day.

Your turn.